Jasper van Putten – “The Networked Cosmos: Sebastian Münster’s City Views”

March 28, 2013

On Thursday, March 28th, Science Center 469 from 6 pm, Jasper van Putten (Harvard, History of Art and Architecture), will give a talk titled “The Networked Cosmos: Sebastian Münster’s City Views” [see abstract below].

As usual, there will be food and drinks, and the talk will start at about 6,15/6,20 – please RSVP to savoia@fas.harvard.edu


The German cosmographer Sebastian Münster (1488-1552) has become a paradigmatic historical figure whose work and person are closely tied to German national identity. Münster's portrait appeared on the 100 DM note from 1961 to 1995, and his life and work have been the subject of several scholarly monographs. Especially Münster's Cosmographia (Basel, 1544-1628), a thousand-plus-page description of the world in texts, maps, and city views was important in the shaping of German identity. My research concerns a little explored aspect of the Cosmographia: the makers of its city views, from artists, to patrons, draftsmen, and woodcutters. In this paper, I argue that just as important as Münster’s authorial person was Münster’s ability to elicit the regional and national pride of the makers of these images, especially their patrons, generally city councils and princes. Münster sketched to his patrons a vision of the German nation from antiquity to present, and highlighted the function of the city as a symbol of Germany's cultural progress. Arguing that print was the best means to preserve the images of cities for posterity, Münster managed to convince his patrons to contribute drawings of their cities, along with a considerable printing fee, to serve as models for the woodcut city views in the Cosmographia.